Turnovers have become a major theme for Purdue.
Coach Matt Painter is convinced they are enough to render the Boilermakers no more than a .500 team.
Purdue (15-14, 5-11 Big Ten) has sported one of the conference’s higher turnover ratios all season. In their fourth straight loss, 83-76 Sunday at No. 20 Iowa, the Boilermakers had 16 giveaways, bringing the issue to a head.
It’s entirely too much, Painter said. We really didn’t take care of the ball in key stretches. It really hurt us, especially the type of turnovers we were having. When those lead to immediate layups at the other end, it stings. No defense for that.
Tonight, Purdue gets a glimpse at elite ball security, as less than 13 percent of possessions for No. 14 Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5) have ended in a turnover.
They have a very good coach and a very good system, Painter said. They share the basketball. They just have a lot of experience and solid basketball players.
It’s partly why the Badgers are arguably the best team in the league, with seven straight wins and a chance on Senior Night at the Kohl Center to lock up a top-three seed in the Big Ten tournament.
The Boilermakers view turnovers as the single most important variable heading into this potential mismatch. They could have beaten Michigan, another league giant, last Wednesday if not for mistakes, Painter said.
We’re not giving ourselves enough cracks at it, he said. Our turnovers were killer all week. We had a couple tough losses. We did some good things but had some really costly turnovers.
A matchup to watch is Ronnie Johnson against Wisconsin counterpart Traevon Jackson.
Johnson, a sophomore point guard, has been charged with 11 of Purdue’s 27 turnovers in the past two games. Jackson will look to force Johnson into more poor decisions.
With Johnson’s quickness, however, Purdue needs him to get to the basket. Striking a balance between attacking and making smarter choices is symbolic of the dilemma that has left Purdue spinning its wheels.
You’re having one of those seasons where you have to find ways to win, Painter said. We’re not doing that. You have to put yourself in position to win a game. Then you have to win. The last two games we’ve been able to do the first one.
With shooting guard Sterling Carter and backup center Jay Simpson injured, the Boilermakers have even less margin for error. And Wisconsin is unlikely to take them lightly despite its recent tear.
We have a group that keeps everything in perspective and never gets too high or too low, Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.
Painter’s group is one that frustrates, that tantalizes. Purdue gets one last shot at beating a ranked team in the regular season after two close calls in five days.
I felt like we beat ourselves in both games, Painter said. We had unforced errors. We just don’t give ourselves a chance.